Three years after launching its HoloLens augmented reality headset, Microsoft today announced the HoloLens 2, an improved and pricier iteration that costs $3,500. As with the original, the second-gen model is not really aimed at consumers.
There are plenty of mixed reality headsets that are, plus a spattering of virtual reality headsets, the most popular of which are the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. HoloLens 2 isn't aiming to be the best VR headset, or even just a VR solution. What it is, though, is a better version of HoloLens in practically every way.
Microsoft said it more than doubled the field of view in HoloLens, while maintaining a holographic density of 47 pixels per degree of sight. As Wired explains, this essentially means HoloLens 2 has the equivalent of two 2K displays, one for each eye, whereas the original had the equivalent of two 720p displays.
HoloLens 2 also boasts a new display system with a new time-of-flight sensor, and is designed to be more comfortable than the previous version. However, the expanded field of view is the potential game changer for people who use this kind of thing. The Verge spent some hands-on time with the HoloLens 2 and notes that whereas there is still some clipping, the field of view is now big enough to where turning your head doesn't cause holograms to disappear.
"HoloLens 2 enables direct manipulation of holograms with the same instinctual interactions you’d use with physical objects in the real world. In addition to the improvements in the display engine and direct manipulation of holograms, HoloLens 2 contains eye-tracking sensors that make interacting with holograms even more natural. You can log in with Windows Hello enterprise-grade authentication through iris recognition, making it easy for multiple people to quickly and securely share the device," Microsoft explains.
Out of the gate, this does not mean a whole lot for gaming. However, it's reasonable to expect that what makes HoloLens 2 tick will trickle down into the consumer space at some point. Furthermore, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney announced at Microsoft's HoloLens 2 unveiling that Unreal Engine 4 support will be coming to the headset.
"I believe that AR is going to be the primary platform of the future for both work and entertainment," Sweeney said.
The cost is higher this time around, in part because Microsoft is skipping a cheaper developer version, which is what sold for $3,000 (the commercial version debuted at $5,000). Businesses that have the budget and need for this sort of thing can place their preorder now.